Ageist practices and policies
Organisations will have to take a more inclusive approach so that we all benefit from an aging population.
It is hard to imagine that the first children who will live to the ripe age of 150 have already been born. Demographers project that in countries where populations age well, more than 50% of children born today will live until the age of 100. The future of work will have to take a more inclusive approach so that we all benefit from an aging population. Sadly, ageist practices and policies are endemic in our workplaces and age bias starts as young as 40.
What is that going to mean for the workplace?
- People aged 60 plus will soon outnumber children aged 5 and under.
- The five-generation workforce is an emerging reality: as people live longer, they are continuing to learn, be productive, and to contribute to society. For many people, that means continuing to work.
How will organisations prepare for such an eventuality when in our current systems people complain of ageism at the age of 40?
The World Economic Forum 3 Ps
The World Economic Forum approaches this matter through 3Ps:
1. Personal responsibility
Individuals must have a responsibility to keep themselves healthy and therefore employable and to embrace a philosophy of continuous learning. The health element will be a key challenge despite the advances in modern medicine. The Japanese government is already encouraging organisations to extend the retirement age or even remove it all together.
Masako Wakamiya, at the age of 81, developed a smartphone app called “hinadan“, a game aimed at older people users. Now 84, Wakamiya calls herself an IT evangelist and encourages other seniors to use digital technology to “enrich their lives.” She writes books while spreading her message on the Japanese and international speaking circuit. Even in her mid-80s, she trains seniors on how to use technology on their smartphones. We are likely to reach situations where a 70-year-old senior could have as many as 30 to 40 years to live at least.
The anticipated complexity of tomorrow’s workplace will require a commitment to continuous learning from both individuals and employers. It will also require a mindset shift in our wider cultures so that older workers can add to their career longevity through ongoing reskilling and upskilling. So even though organisations have to do much of the heavy lifting, there are still things that individuals can do to help themselves.
Age will really have to be an attitude, not a number.
Employers will have a responsibility to provide opportunities for an ageing workforce and not limit the talent pipeline to younger workers. The pool simply will not be big enough. A business will need clearly defined policies around well-being and health and redefine jobs to accommodate an older workforce. Research from PwC indicates that only 8% of companies incorporate ageism when they are designing their D &I policies. Even with a global talent problem and skillset gap, companies still don’t target older demographics to meet increasingly acute needs. This needs to change.
Older workers are the fastest-growing demographic globally and women in this age group report an increase in age bias.
Worth a read: Gendered Ageism – the New Sexism – 3 Plus International
Governments at all levels need to enforce policies against age discrimination, look at policies around unemployment, and job retraining to ensure that older workers who lose their jobs get the skills and help they need to find new ones.
Workforce retraining initiatives should stronger focus more on older generations with a specific focus on ageist practices and policies. The pace of change in the world of work is faster than ever. To embrace a truly multi-generational workforce will require a mindset switch and the way we approach aging and careers.
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